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Disc review: Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective, ‘Breathless’

Fusion

Terence Blanchard E-Collective

Breathless

[Blue Note]

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Here is an old story. And, at it worst as it is through most of this, a very depressing one: a truly great jazz musician deciding, as the Blue Note publicity would have it, to enter “en exciting zone of grooved fusion teeming with funk, R&B and blues colors.”

As composer/trumpet player Terence Blanchard explains it here “I always think of Miles Davis. No matter what he played he was always Miles. He changed but most of all he was having fun, That’s the way I look at it. Whatever comes so be it. But for this recording, there was just one must. The groove. Everything else is up for grabs.”

That is a gross misunderstanding of Davis’ electric music that doesn’t begin to go far enough. Davis wanted desperately to commercialize himself from 1969 to 1974 but, as a hopelessly forward-thinking artist, what he wound up doing is performing some of the most radical music of his life, brilliantly exploring forms in a way he never dreamed of before. The music he made after that was, to many of us, ignorable electric music distinguished by the presence of a genius who had gotten lost and didn’t belong where he’d wound up.

The groove on this disc is a bore as often as not. The playing – which is, I suppose, what he’d consider “up for grabs” – is sometimes very good but also often pointless. It begins with a funked-up version of Eddie Harris and Les McCann’s “Compared to What” which is a crashing irrelevance because it’s completely deficient in everything that really is fun in the original but isn’t as Blanchard performs it.

That the musician who gave us the classic Katrina record wants now to give us this is fine for him, I suppose, but there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why those who have so highly valued so much of his work until now should follow him into music others do so much better.

As for consumers of groove music and hip-hop, there’s some decent jazz soloing here but nothing you can’t hear in vastly more impressive circumstances elsewhere

Some of what Don Was is bringing to Blue Note now is interesting but so much of it seems a waste of talent and resources.

– Jeff Simon

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